Camera Test: Canon Powershot G7

Neither Elph nor EOS, what exactly is the Canon Powershot G7?

Camera-Test-Canon-Powershot-G7
Camera-Test-Canon-Powershot-G7

Camera Test: Canon Powershot G71285B001CanonPowershot G7Canon describes the 10MP 6x (35-210 f/2.8-4.8 equivalent) Image-stabilized zoom Canon Powershot G7 as the Flagship of the G-series. In fact, the G7 isn't just the flagship, it's the whole fleet. With its vintage black metal finish with silver highlights and accents, it is a great-looking camera. Knobs and dials sit on the top, alongside an EX-series hotshoe mount. There is a big, bright 2.5 inch TFT LCD (207,000 pixels) on the back, below an actual, functional optical viewfinder. To the right of the viewfinder sits an array of buttons and dials for quick control of image quality functions. At $529 street, the G7 is pricier than the priciest Elph, the $425 SD900 and slightly cheaper than the EOS Rebel XT with the 18-55mm kit lens. ($575.) As DSLRs have come down in price, and compact point-and-shoots have become more feature-rich, the "advanced" compact digicam category has gotten squeezed from both sides. So is the G7 for the Elpher looking to move up to a more feature-rich camera, or is it meant to be the pocket cam for the EOS enthusiast and pro who doesn't want to let go of too much creative control when traveling light? Can one camera actually bridge the Elph-EOS gap successfully? In some ways yes, it can, but in some significant ways, the answer is no.

Canon describes the 10MP 6x (35-210 f/2.8-4.8 equivalent) Image-stabilized zoom Canon Powershot G7 as the Flagship of the G-series. In fact, the G7 isn't just the flagship, it's the whole fleet.

With its vintage black metal finish with silver highlights and accents, it is a great-looking camera. Knobs and dials sit on the top, alongside an EX-series hotshoe mount. There is a big, bright 2.5 inch TFT LCD (207,000 pixels) on the back, below an actual, functional optical viewfinder. To the right of the viewfinder sits an array of buttons and dials for quick control of image quality functions.

At $529 street, the G7 is pricier than the priciest Elph, the $425 SD900 and slightly cheaper than the EOS Rebel XT with the 18-55mm kit lens. ($575.) As DSLRs have come down in price, and compact point-and-shoots have become more feature-rich, the "advanced" compact digicam category has gotten squeezed from both sides.

What's Hot • Great Design and great looks • Optical Image stabilization • 1024x480 video at 15fps • Optical Viewfinder • EX-hotshoe What's Not • No RAW mode • Noise performance at ISO 400-1600 • Visible Barrel distortion at wide angle • Lens barrel shows in optical viewfinder • Doesn't give ISO in EXIF in Auto modes

So is the G7 for the Elpher looking to move up to a more feature-rich camera, or is it meant to be the pocket cam for the EOS enthusiast and pro who doesn't want to let go of too much creative control when traveling light? Can one camera actually bridge the Elph-EOS gap successfully? In some ways yes, it can, but in some significant ways, the answer is no.

The menu style and layout is reminiscent of those found throughout the Elph line, and many of the camera functions are borrowed from the EOS series. As is common with most point-and-shoots, the G7 has a small selection of image optimization settings for various scenes. But there's also flash exposure compensation, exposure lock and flash exposure lock, DSLR features for both the built-in or EOS accessory strobes. The G7 captures photons on a 1/1.8 CCD, like the SD900 Elph, not on the APS-C sized CMOS of most EOS cameras.

Previous G-series cameras used BP-511 series batteries, like the EOS 30D and 5D, but the G7 goes with the NB-2LH, like the Rebel series, presumably for compactness.

This camera is built very solidly. It weighs in at about 14 ounces with battery and SD card, and every dial and button works smoothly -- not too stiff, but not chintzy either. That big LCD lives in a sturdy window and is protected from pressure damage. The zoom is well damped, and has a very quiet motor. The appearance and handfeel is all high-quality. The size of the camera (4.2x2.8x1.67) means that it can actually be held to the eye comfortably when using the optical viewfinder. There is a minimalist rubberized grip strip on the front of the camera, below the shutter button, which isn't all that effective, and no finger catch on the back to speak of. If your hands are even the slightest bit sweaty, this camera can be slippery.

The G7 writes to SD media, like the entire current Elph line, but unlike every EOS until you get to the top of the line 1D Mark II N and 1Ds Mark II N, which then only write JPEGs, and not RAW to the SD media in default mode. Acting very Elphish, the G7 eschews RAW, writing and processing only in a couple of JPEG compression settings. Despite the new Digic III processor in the G7, our thinking is that Canon chose JPEG-only for write-speed reasons, to keep the camera from getting bogged down in writing all that RAW data. But as memory card prices drop, more and more shooters are moving to the RAW workflow for making the most of their captured data. It isn't a fatal flaw, but it is a big oversight in a pricey camera aimed at serious shooters.

Unlike previous G-series cameras, the LCD on the G7 is fixed to the camera, and doesn't swivel or swing to assist in framing shots at high or low angles. But since the LCD has such a wide angle of actual readability, this isn't a big deal at all. The LCD shows accurately without color inversions as far as your arm can swing. The LCD gains up and down automatically, but often shows blooming and hotspot bleed, especially in scenes with large exposure value ranges. These blooms and bleeds don't affect the final image, but they can make framing challenging at times. Again, this is not a fatal flaw. In fact it's pretty typical for compact cams with live preview, but it can be just a bit unsettling at times. Especially in low light, the LCD preview tends to be very noisy.

On the subject of noise, this camera has some serious noise issues at ISO 400 and up.

At ISO 400, it just squeaks in at the high side of Moderate (2.875), and its performance at 800 is well into the Unacceptable rating with a 4.85, and even worse at 1600 (7.3). (One might suggest that the Optical Image Stabilization should keep the camera in its good ISO range by floating the element, rather than cranking up the ISO, but with a camera of this class and price, one should expect better image quality results.) Also disappointing is the Visible Barrel distortion of .50% at 1x. At 3x, distortion is contained, with an imperceptible pincushion at .05%, but then it goes back to slight Pincushion at 6x (.12%). The Slight and Imperceptible Pincushion isn't much to write home about, but that wide angle distortion is particularly depressing, considering the size of the lens. For comparison, the 10x zoom Mega Optical Image Stabilized Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 posts much better results across its focal distance, with only slight barrel distortion at 1x (.21%) (35mm equivalent: 35mm, same as Canon G7) and imperceptible distortion at its midpoint, and imperceptible Barrel at 10x.

Resolution is class-competitive at low ISOs, scoring Excellent at ISO 80 (2025) and 400 (1955), but drops off significantly to Very High at ISO 1600 (1420.) On a more positive note from the lab test, the Powershot G7 has excellent Color accuracy with an average Delta E of 7/92 ISO 80, AutoWhite balanced.

In the Box • PowerShot G7 Body • Lithium Battery Pack NB-2LH • Battery Charger CB-2LW • SD Memory Card SDC-32M • Wrist Strap WS-700 • Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM • USB Interface Cable IFC-400PCU • AV Cable AVC-DC300

Without flash, the G7 will fire off shots at just about two per second in burst mode. Continuous focus burst mode, in which the G7 achieves focus between each shot, tops out at .8 seconds between shots, per the instructions manual. Your experiences may vary towards slower than this claimed rate in this mode, depending on the difference in focal distance between shots. Burst with flash is possible, and is limited by flash output and subject distance for burst rates, which can vary from faster than one per second for a close-up, high ISO, fast aperture series, to several seconds for low ISO, stopped down, far-from-subject series.

On the video side, which is a shooting mode selected by the dial near the shutter button, the G7 can shoot at standard VGA resolution of 640x480 at 30 frames per seconds, or in wide-screen 1024x480 pixels at 15 frames per second. Focal distance is fixed while recording, and cannot be changed while the camera is shooting video.

On the playback side the G7 features direct printing and slideshows with transitions. Slideshows can be grouped by all photos, or by date, or by user-selected categories, which can be assigned to each image in playback-events, scenery, people, and user-input categories. "My colors" image adjustment settings can be applied to images during playback, and voice notes can be added to files as well. Aside from "my colors," there are not a whole lot of in-camera editing options. A very nice feature in playback is the speed-review, which scrolls through image thumbnails quickly by rotating the dial around the multi-direction array. This is a nice touch, especially when shooting with a big card that can hold hundreds of images.

As we've mentioned, one of the anchor traits of G series has been the EX hotshoe. The G7 is compatible with any EX-series strobe, though the manual only lists the current production models. Your four-year-old 550EX will work as a fully functioning ETTL strobe with the G7, and so will your recent 430EX. Adding an EX accessory strobe will more than double the size of the camera, and the camera, with EX strobe attached, hangs upside down when carried around the neck or shoulder. It's not really all that ergonomic a shooting experience, but adding the EX strobe will improve both flash recycling time, and allow for greater strobing distance. Maximum strobe sync speed is 1/500, which is great for fill flash, outdoors, and freezing fast action, and better than any sub-$2,000 EOS.

The Bottom Line:

The Canon Powershot G7 is a great-looking camera with cool styling, a great build, and good menu navigation. We were expecting big things from this camera, but its performance in the lab is a disappointment, especially at the higher ISOs.

Is this the must-have pocket-cam for the pros? Probably not. There are just too many cut corners and sacrifices that many hardcore shooters may not be willing to take. The wide angle lens distortion is high for a camera of this class, the noise numbers at higher ISOs rate from bad to dismal, and the lack of RAW support is sure to disappoint many EOS users.

Is this the biggest, best Elph for the Elpher looking for more? Perhaps, yes. In other ways, no. Add on $100 more than the SD900 and you get Optical Image stabilization and double the zoom range. You also get 1024x480 video at 15 frames per second, and can attach EX-series strobes at a high 1/500th sync speed. But the G7 performs worse at all comparable ISOs in noise performance, without a significant gain in resolution at the lower ISOs than the SD900.

Elph or EOS? In a lot of ways, the Canon Powershot G7 brings both the best and worst of Canon's other digital camera lines into one small package.

Certified Test Results:

Noise: Low at ISO 80 (1.9), Moderately Low at ISO 100 (2.2) and ISO 200 (2.2), Moderate at ISO 400 (2.8), and High/Unacceptable at ISO 800 (4.85) and ISO 1600 (7.3)

Color: Excellent. Average Delta E: 7.92 ISO 80 AWB

Lens Distortion: Visible Barrel at 1x (.50%), Imperceptible Pincushioning at 3x (.05%), and Slight Pincushioning at 6x (.12%)

Resolution: Excellent at ISO 80 (2025) and ISO 400 (1955), Very High at ISO 1600 (1420.)

CIPA Battery Estimate: 220 images

Dimensions: Dimensions (W x H x D): 4.19 x 2.83 x 1.67 in. / 106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5mm

Weight: Approx 13.5 ounces with battery and SD card

Deep Tech Specs From Canon USA

Camera Type:
Compact digital still camera with built-in flash and the lens shift-type image stabilizer (IS) system, 6x Optical / 4x Digital / 24x Combined Zoom

Type
10.0 Megapixel, 1/1.8 inch type Charge Coupled Device (CCD)

Total Pixels
Approx. 10.40 Megapixels

Effective Pixels
Approx. 10.0 Megapixels

Lens Focal Length
7.4-44.4mm f/2.8-4.8 (35mm film equivalent: 35-210mm)

Digital Zoom
4x

Focusing Range
Normal: 1.6 ft./50cm-infinity
Macro: 0.39 in.-1.6 ft./1-50cm (WIDE)

Autofocus System
TTL Autofocus

Viewfinders

Optical Viewfinder
Real-image optical zoom viewfinder

LCD Monitor
2.5 inch low-temperature polycrystalline silicon TFT color LCD
Brightness adjustment: 15 levels

LCD Pixels
Approx. 207,000 pixels

LCD Coverage
100%

Aperture and Shutter

Maximum Aperture
f/2.8 (W) - f/4.8 (T)

Shutter Speed
15-1/2000 sec.; Long Shutter operates with noise reduction when manually set at 1.3-15 sec.

Exposure Control

ISO Sensitivity
Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 80/100/200/400/800/1600 (Standard Output Sensitivity/Recommended Exposure Index)

Light Metering Method
Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot*
* Metering frame is fixed to the center or linked to the AF frame

Exposure Control Method
Program AE; AE Lock is available

Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments

White Balance

White Balance Control
Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H), Custom

Flash

Built-in Flash
Auto, Auto w/ Red-Eye Reduction, Auto w/ Slow Synchro, Flash On, Flash On w/ Red-Eye Reduction, Flash On w/ Slow Synchro, Flash Off

Flash Range
Normal: 1.6-13 ft./50cm - 4.0m (W), 1.6-8.2 ft./50cm - 2.5m (T)
Macro: 1-1.6 ft./30-50cm (W/T) (when sensitivity is set to ISO Auto)

Recycling Time
12 sec. or less (battery voltage=6.0V)

Flash Exposure Compensation
+/-2 stops in 1/3-stop increments

Shooting Specifications

Shooting Modes
Auto, P, Av, Tv, M, C1, C2, Special Scene (Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Sports, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater, ISO 3200, Indoor, Kids & Pets, Night Snapshot, Color Accent, Color Swap), Stitch Assist, Movie

Photo Effects

My Colors
Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom Color

Self-Timer
Activates shutter after an approx. 2-sec./10-sec. delay, Custom

Wireless Control
Not available

Continuous Shooting
Approx. 2.0 fps

Image Storage

Storage Media
SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard

File Format
Design rule for camera file system, DPOF Version 1.1

Image Compression
Normal, Fine, SuperFine

JPEG Compression Mode
Still Image: Exif 2.2 (JPEG)
Movie: AVI (Image: Motion JPEG; Audio: WAVE (Monaural))

Number of Recording Pixels
Still Image: 640 x 480 (Small), 1,600 x 1,200 (Medium 3), 2,272 x 1,704 (Medium 2), 2,816 x 2,112 (Medium 1), 3,648 x 2,736 (Large), 3,648 x 2,048 (Widescreen)
Movie: 1,024 x 768 (15 fps), 640 x 480 / 320 x 240 (30 fps/15 fps) available up to 4GB, 160 x 120 (3 min. at 15 fps)

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